Grace Michaelson

Who Owns the Bad Stuff?


As I was writing in my journal last night, I began to realize that what I was writing was the beginning of a good blogpost.  It is, in fact, a truth that people struggle with all. the. time.  Who takes ownership when bad things happen to good people?  Some of us take ownership ourselves.  Some of us try to make God own it.  Some of us force the ownership on other people.  Sometimes the ownership does belong to ourselves or other people.  Like if a person steals from you, then ownership belongs to the person who took from you. If you’re late too work too many times and you get yourself fired, then the ownership belongs to you.  What I’m talking about here, though, is about bad things that happen because we live in a world that is broken because Adam & Eve chose to break it when they ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.  Bad things that no one can own–like a natural disaster, a death of a desperately wanted baby, or; like in my case, the injury of an innocent baby that left a child scarred for life.

Let me tell you Caleb’s story:

Caleb is now 16 years old.  He is well-adjusted, smart as a whip, and dreams big dream.  He doesn’t let anything stop him.  He believes he can do anything anyone else can do.  He has a Totally Involved Left Sided Obstetrical Brachial Plexus Injury.  What that means is that he has paralysis in his left arm and part of the left side of his face (Horner’s Syndrome), and it happened during his birth (Obstetrical verses Traumatic).

I remember his birth as clearly as it was yesterday:

There came a moment when the doctor said, “Uh-oh, we have a problem!”

Michael remembers looking down at Caleb and seeing that his head and neck were out, his cord was rapped around his neck, and that the cord was white because it was pinched off and not giving Caleb the life-giving fluid he needed to get through the rest of his birth.

The nurse called, “Code Pink!”, and the room filled with more people than I could even count.

Some were up on the gurney with me, some were holding my legs.  The doctor had three minutes to get my son out before he passed away.  Nurses were pushing on my belly.  I was screaming in pain, even though I had an epidural.  My husband was bending over me trying to calm me down.

I kept screaming, “God please help Caleb.  Don’t let my Caleb die!”

Then the two and a half minutes were done.  He was out.  No sound came from my baby.  His first Apgar scores were so low.  Then came a soft cry and I knew he was alive.  The neonatal doctor came over to my bed and leaned over with Caleb in his arms.

“I have to take him, but here he is.  There is something wrong with his face and arms.  Otherwise, we think he’ll make it,” He said, then he was gone.

I turned to Michael and said, “Go!  Go with him.”

I was left wondering what had happened, shivering from loss of blood, and my body broken.  Later I found out that I would need extensive surgery to repair my pelvic floor.  So who owns this tragedy?  I could blame the doctor, and yet my son is alive because of her quick thinking.  The truth is I spent a long while after Caleb’s birth blaming God.  How could He allow such a bad thing happen to an innocent baby?  I slowly came around to the truth that God was not to blame.  The truth is that He was instrumental in delivering my son from his death, or even brain damage due to oxygen starvation, or Cerebral Palsy, or many other possibilities that could have come out of a birth like that.  God, when allowing bad things to happen to His servants, always puts boundaries around those bad things.

Then I turned my attention to myself.  I blamed my body.  It became apparent that I had never dilated to a full 10.  Doctor’s could never explain why, saying only that I must have had a “man-like” pelvis.  So I told myself that I had injured Caleb.  I told myself I somehow controlled my womb and my pelvis and it was my fault.  Do you see how silly I was?  I had no control over this situation.  Only last month I finally found out the exact truth of why Caleb was injured.  Through the advancement of the last 16 years, we have a new CT method that shows a clearer picture.  They were able to see my pelvis and womb and found that I have both a tilt and a heart shape uterus, making it impossible for me to ever be able to dilate to 10.  The truth is, that if Joshua my oldest, had been only a few ounces bigger, he too would have been injured or possibly would have died at birth.  God, instead of doing something bad to our family, did many good things.  He has allowed our children to be alive and only allowed the worst to be a disabled arm that doesn’t even stop Caleb from doing anything he wants to do.

I would love to be able to assign blame for every bad thing that happens to me.  It feels like closure.  It feels then like it has purpose.  The truth is, though, as I have worked through the realization that there is no ownership to be given to anyone in the case of Caleb’s injury, I have also come to realize that there is no less purpose in bad situations that happen to people where ownership can’t be established.  Things that happen to us find their purpose when we allow God to do His thing in us.  That’s when the tragedies of our lives start to become purposeful and have true meaning–when God makes them into something for His glory and honor.

The Bible says that our world is broken and waiting for the renewal of creation.  Romans 8:18-22 says, “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”  Someday God will fix His creation and there will be no more of this brokenness and sorry.  We can look forward to that day.  Until that day, we can find solace in knowing that we can trust God to give purpose to the things that don’t seem to make sense or that no one can own.  Bad things just happen to good people sometimes.  That’s just the world we live in.  That’s why we look to the future.

Revelations 21:3-4, “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”


He is Risen! So What Does That Mean in 2016?


I’m sure that all over your Facebook today you have joyous Christians calling out to each other “He is Risen!” and then back “He is Risen Indeed!”  Well, maybe.  I guess that depends on if you have a lot of Christian friends.  At least on my feed there are a lot of them.  We’re all happy and joyous as we remember that our Lord did not just die and get him self buried and that was it.  He mastered death and because of that we have victory over death ourselves.  At least that is what’s in Scripture and what we celebrate one day out of the year.  So, what is the big deal, really, about a Lord that is not dead in the grave?  Why should we be excited about the Resurrection all the other days of the year?  After all, if you’re anything like me, you’re tempted to be really weary of this world and ready to call it.  Why are you waiting any longer, Lord?  I’m done with this merry-go-round crappy world and I’m ready for the reward of heaven! Right?

My pastor today told us that the resurrection is our reason for joy in every moment, no matter what we face.  How many of us are trying to make sense of things that happen to us over and over again that are unpleasant and chaotic?  I know I am.  There are many things that have happened to me that I’m just like, “Whatever, Abba, why this again?”  It would be so easy to just give up on my faith in God, but one thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that I have a relationship with the God of this Universe and He can make sense of the chaotic and bring peace.  Why is that so?  The resurrection.  It all comes back to that.  Without that victory over death, then God wouldn’t have victory over the chaos in our lives in 2016.  So for all time, the resurrection stands as God’s “Life Event”, so to speak, or God’s major marker in history, for all of us to point to as the day that God won the victory over all the hell we live through here on earth.

How do we live out this resurrection joy?  It’s so easy to be joyful on Easter morning, but how do we do it when we are in the trenches?  What do you do on those days?  Those are the days you have to remember that we’re in the thick of a battle and, although our Lord one the War that Resurrection Sunday, we still, everyday, have to put on our armor from Ephesians 6 and daily claim the Resurrection Joy.  The most important days to claim that Joy and Armor are in the middle of those horrible days when you want to crawl into your bed, curl into a ball under your covers and bawl your head off.  I have found the My Abba will always catch me when I claim His Joy and His Armor.  The enemy of our joy wants us to feel alone and alienated, he wants us to feel like the grave is not empty and that the stone is not rolled away.  But it is rolled away, and the grave is empty.  For the Lord has risen!  He has risen indeed!